An old timer shares his perspective on why he derives pleasure from threshing wheat and shredding corn.
We read a great deal in the Album about "Whistle language," "stack talk," and the nasal benefits of hot cylinder oil—all of which are truly enjoyable and a wonderful part of the meets and of fond memories. I suppose I enjoy these fringe benefits as well as the next man and have enjoyed them from my youth, since some of my Father's 55 years as a thresherman were history by the time I was born. There is, however, a little mentioned side of our hobby in which I take deep satisfaction and about which I am moved to write.
On our farm, we have threshed wheat and oats and shredded corn regularly for these last 18 years, for the following very good reasons above and beyond the fun our guests and we have had. We fill the barn with oat straw to get good bedding—without mowing, raking and baling and without having to shake bales—and for the chaff. This winter our cattle have eaten all the chaff which is swept into tight mangers over grain. Our vet points out that this fills a natural craving which prompts cattle and sheep to take a straw stack apart in late winter searching for the chaff. He is of the opinion that sugar deficiency in cattle came with the combine. How many can recall that the way to fill a mow with straw is to turn the blower-hood upside down and bank it right off the roof. This fall we set the corn shredder four times to run 30 - 50 shocks at a time. While this was done to accommodate various groups of guests, it had a few other benefits. For one thing, fodder shredded, admittedly green, in late October, had time to cure and dry before more was added. We fed it all out by February, as green and nice as at the beginning.
Then too, with one or two loads of ear corn from each setting we were able to grind, mix, and feed each load, the only handling by hand being to scoop the ground corn into the feed bunks. It was January before we had to go to the crib for additional corn. There are few who remember and probably fewer who care how much more interest a manure spreader takes in its work when part or all of the bedding is shredded fodder. It is my opinion that we get twice the value from a given field of corn properly fed from a shredder as compared with shelling and leaving a mess on the field.
Very few young farmers today are willing to step out of line enough to consider what can be done with threshers and shredders, costing very little. Our ball-bearing, steel shredder came from a junk yard. Since I have reached the so-called Harvest years, I can say with some conviction that it is a lot more fun to travel than to stay at home, to keep the man at the bank in a good humor.
We use steam a little and the oil pull somewhat more, for convenience. But either way our work provides a good show. Fans and prony brakes are fine. I don't know how we could have meets without them, but when a sheaf goes in crossways or someone lets a whole armful hit the shredder, it wakes up an engine—right now! These are the delights of the moment and are to be enjoyed the more when you realize that there are other benefits which last around the year.